DRC, Madagascar & Mauritius - Online discussion on customary law - 28 June - 9 July | Land Portal

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2nd Week

5 - 9 July

In the 2nd week, the discussion took place in the plenary space

 

 


1st Week

28 June - 4 July

 

This is the discussion thread on The Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar & Mauritius, as part of the Online Discussion "Customary law and institutions - Protecting or undermining community land rights in Southern Africa?"

 

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Ce groupe de discussion associe la RDC - le plus grand pays d'Afrique subsaharienne - et les deux nations insulaires de Madagascar et de Maurice. Ces pays ont peu en commun, si ce n'est leur appartenance à la SADC. La RDC a obtenu son indépendance de la Belgique en 1960. Une grande partie de son histoire après l'indépendance a été caractérisée par des conflits. Madagascar a obtenu son indépendance de la France la même année, tandis que l'île Maurice, une ancienne colonie britannique, est devenue indépendante en 1968. Les participants à ce module auront des expériences très différentes pour répondre aux questions suivantes

  • Quelles ont été les principales approches adoptées par les gouvernements coloniaux respectifs des différents pays vis-à-vis du droit coutumier et des systèmes de gouvernance ?
  • De quelles manières les gouvernements post-coloniaux des trois pays ont-ils essayé de changer ces systèmes hérités ?
  • Quel a été le raisonnement à la base de ces changements ?

This discussion cluster combines the DRC - the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa and the two island nations of Madagascar and Mauritius. These countries have little in common, other than their membership of SADC. The DRC obtained independence from Belgium in 1960. Much of its post independence history has been characterised by conflict. Madagascar obtained independence from France in the same year while Mauritius, a former British colony became independent in 1968. Participants joining this cluster will have very different experiences in answering the following questions

  • What were the main approaches taken by the respective colonial governments in the different countries to customary law and governance systems?
  • In what ways have post-colonial governments in the three countries tried to change these inherited systems?
  • What has been the thinking behind these changes?

Traduit avec www.DeepL.com/Translator (version gratuite)

A Madagascar, environ 60% des terres utilisées pour le pâturage, l'agriculture, la forêt et la conservation sont détenues par des systèmes de tenure coutumière.

Voir le rapport d'étude de l'Observatoire du foncier (https://www.oatf-madagascar.mg/).

Il existe des institutions établies telles que les chefferies, les chefs traditionnels et les forums de décision coutumiers qui jouent un rôle dans l'allocation et la gouvernance des terres. Celles-ci varient entre les différentes régions ; chaque région a sa propre façon de gérer la terre selon ses propres coutumes. Cependant, il n'existe actuellement aucune législation nationale promulguée régissant le rôle des institutions de leadership traditionnel à Madagascar, bien qu'une législation soit en cours d'élaboration.

Reconnaissance du droit coutumier

Il existe une reconnaissance limitée du droit coutumier à Madagascar, qui reste largement informel et marginal, mais dans les communautés locales, on s'appuie sur le droit coutumier vivant.

Leadership traditionnel

Le leadership local n'est pas nécessairement héréditaire et il existe des cas où les chefs traditionnels sont élus par leur communauté. Chaque région, avec ses us et coutumes, peut avoir des manières différentes de gérer la terre. Les femmes ne peuvent généralement pas occuper de postes de direction traditionnels. Actuellement, les chefs traditionnels ne reçoivent pas de salaires ou d'allocations de l'État. Il semble toutefois possible qu'ils puissent imposer des prélèvements ou des amendes aux communautés qu'ils représentent, mais les modalités de cette pratique doivent encore être vérifiées.

L'influence politique des institutions coutumières

Elle reste importante à Madagascar dans la mesure où la coutume joue encore un rôle significatif dans la gestion des terres et dans l'organisation sociale d'un clan.

Les responsabilités en matière d'attribution des terres

Les institutions coutumières jouent un rôle de pacificateur dans la résolution des conflits et donnent leur accord pour l'utilisation des terres.

Héritage des terres

La terre est héritée par les liens du sang, puis par les liens du mariage.

Les droits fonciers des femmes dans les systèmes fonciers coutumiers

Le droit des femmes d'accéder à la terre indépendamment des hommes varie selon les régions et leurs coutumes. Les droits fonciers des femmes restent généralement peu sûrs et les femmes sont souvent classées dans le groupe des personnes marginalisées.

La médiation des conflits liés à la terre

Les institutions et les chefs coutumiers servent de médiateurs dans les conflits fonciers locaux.

La responsabilisation des institutions de leadership traditionnelles

Bien que la reconnaissance n'ait pas été formalisée, les institutions coutumières restent généralement adaptables et responsables vers le bas, répondant aux besoins et aux droits fonciers des communautés.

Reconnaissance légale

La législation qui régira les ressources gérées par les communautés est en cours d'élaboration. Cependant, bien que les communautés aient été consultées à ce sujet, le processus n'a pas été entièrement participatif ou mené de manière très inclusive.

In Madagascar, approximately 60% of land used for grazing, agriculture, forestry and conservation is held under customary tenure systems.

See the Observatoire du foncier study report (https://www.oatf-madagascar.mg/).

There are established institutions such as chiefdoms, traditional leaders and customary decision-making forums that play a role in land allocation and governance. These vary between different regions; each region has its own way of managing land according to its own customs. However, there is currently no enacted national legislation governing the role of traditional leadership institutions in Madagascar, although legislation is being developed.

Recognition of customary law

There is limited recognition of customary law in Madagascar, which remains largely informal and marginal, but in local communities living customary law is relied upon.

Traditional leadership

Local leadership is not necessarily hereditary and there are cases where traditional leaders are elected by their communities. Each region, with its own customs and practices, may have different ways of managing land. Women are generally not allowed to hold traditional leadership positions. Currently, traditional leaders do not receive salaries or allowances from the state. However, it seems possible that they can impose levies or fines on the communities they represent, but the details of this practice have yet to be verified.

The political influence of customary institutions

This remains important in Madagascar as custom still plays a significant role in land management and in the social organisation of a clan.

Responsibilities for land allocation

Customary institutions play a peacemaking role in conflict resolution and give their approval for land use.

Land inheritance

Land is inherited by blood and then by marriage.

Women's land rights in customary tenure systems

Women's right to access land independently of men varies across regions and customs. Women's land rights remain generally insecure and women are often classified as marginalised.

Mediation of land-related conflicts

Customary leaders and institutions mediate local land conflicts.

Empowerment of traditional leadership institutions

Although recognition has not been formalised, customary institutions generally remain adaptable and accountable downwards, responding to the needs and land rights of communities.

Legal recognition

Legislation that will govern community-managed resources is currently being developed. However, although communities have been consulted on this, the process has not been fully participatory or conducted in a very inclusive manner.

In Madagascar approximately 60% of land used for grazing, farming forest and conservation is held under customary tenure systems.

See https://www.land-links.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/USAID_Land_Tenure_Madagascar_Profile-2019.pdf .

There are chiefdoms, traditional leaders and customary decision-making fora in some areas, although these operate largely informally. In Madagascar there are only two formal categories of land: state and private land. Customary land in Madagascar generally exists as a separate system to private titling, and titling has endured in various forms after Malagasy independence. Customary land is usually allocated by a chief of a village (fokontany), and the primary land holder has the power to transfer land via inheritance. All customary land was declared state property after independence, although the issuing of certificates through land reform measures during the last decade enables leasing and mortgaging of land – which is rare. Apart from this, most land in Madagascar has been managed using petit papiers, which has been used by local authorities to allocate land to newcomers. This enables the purchaser to lease, rent and even sell land, depending on local authorities.

Recognition of customary law

Currently there is no national legislation governing the role of traditional leadership institutions. Generally customary law remains informal and in the margins.

Land policy is not well developed in Madagascar due to instability and land can be expropriated by the state.

There are a number of laws relating to land.

The Land Law (2005) which classified all land as state or private, delineated land tenure types, and provided procedures for land registration. This also decentralized land administration to the local level, introduced land certificates, and tried to reverse outright state ownership of land. Reform efforts stalled in 2009 following a coup d’etat.

In 2014 a new administration reinitiated the land reform process, which led to the establishment of 510 Local Land Offices (BIFs) and around 250,000 land certificates.

15 yr Letter for Land Policy (2015) was adopted by a new government in 2015. In effect, the policy aims to restructure land and survey services through decentralisation of land management, revision of laws, and the institution of a plan for a new land curriculum – but the policy recommendation has not yet led to new legislation.

Traditional leadership

Traditional leadership is hereditary and leaders are not usually elected by their community. Most areas of Madagascar are matrilineal and women can assume positions of power. Women can assume traditional leadership positions.

There are no mechanisms in customary law to replace hereditary traditional leader if they lose the confidence of the community. Generally customary land is not recognised although it operates informally. This means that traditional leaders do not receive salaries or stipends from the state and nor do they have powers to impose levies or fines on the communities they represent. Generally speaking, traditional leaders do not have any powers unless they are coopted by the state as community leaders.

The political influence of customary institutions

Generally customary institutions lack significant political influence in Madagascar. Institutions operate informally and informal land acquisition in Madagascar is the norm. Despite this the state does not recognise customary land formerly which falls under the ‘private’ category.

Land allocation responsibilities

Roughly 86% of cultivated land is privately owned, though largely informally, and most through inheritance. Around 78% of farmers obtain land through inheritance - so customary institutions play quite a big role in land allocation.

Land inheritance

Land in Madagascar is under immense pressure from drought and climate change and land parcels have shrunk enormously. Usually land parcels can be passed down the male line intergenerationally, but many people choose to sell land on the informal market.

Women’s land rights under customary tenure systems

Generally, women are not able to access land independently of men and their land rights remain insecure. Climate change and environmental pressures have placed enormous pressure on land and the ability of families to own and manage adequate pieces of arable land. Large companies generally own good land, and natural areas have declined rapidly. Customary land is under pressure and is clearly not coping with famine.

The mediation of land related disputes

Customary institutions and leaders mediate in local land disputes, again albeit informally

Accountability of traditional leadership institutions

Although recognition has not been formalised there is evidence that customary institutions have been increasingly captured by elites and have become vehicles to accumulate power and wealth.

A massive effort to save the Congo moist forest has seen the introduction of a development framework called Integrated Landscape Management, or the Landscapes approach, seeking ‘to provide tools and concepts for allocating and managing land to achieve social, economic, and environmental objectives in areas where agriculture, mining, and other productive land uses compete with environmental and biodiversity goals’.[xliv] But as critics have pointed out, it differs from the European Convention on Landscapes.[xlv] As mentioned before, a significant comment was made by Chris Lang on the increasing use of the woolly term ‘Landscape approach’ by such as CIFOR, the World Bank and others:[xlvi]

"The definition of landscape as above differs in a significant and dangerous way from that of the European Landscape Convention (ratified by the UK). Using landscape as a term to merely integrate only those stakeholders with financial stake risks destroying ‘landscape’ as the correct term in fully involving people and communities in site-specific planning. Missing this vital element twists the word to an extent where it becomes a malfeasant term and further disenfranchises those that any particular landscape belongs to and to whom the landscape belongs."

Landscape means ‘all the visible features’, an unfortunate choice to describe something holistic, not all of which is visible. But the Biodiversity Convention’s ‘Landscape’ emerged with the full weight of academia, NGOs and foreign aid organizations behind it, the concept soon accepted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in November 2012 after a presentation of ten Landscape principles at the 15th Meeting of the CBD Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice. However, in the ten principles put forward, which ‘represent the consensus opinion of a significant number of major actors on how agricultural production and environmental conservation can best be integrated at a landscape scale’, none of them deal with maintaining the integrity of land tenure on the customary commons (in contrast to the CBD’s own Nagoya Protocol), a fact not aided by the impenetrable ‘development speak’ language of the principles:[xlvii]

in the Central African Regional Program for the Environment (CARPE), established by USAID in 2003 and set to run in a new phase from 2012-2020 in the Congo Basin, that 12 Landscape areas feature. An evaluation of the program in 2011 concluded that the CARPE Strategic Plan for 2003-2011 was successful in introducing landscapes and should continue to 2020 in phase III ‘with greater focus on policy reform to support sustainable forest management systems and to support local communities more directly’, clear access rights to forest resources and associated ecosystems services payments’; clearly CBNRM by another name.

As the 12 targeted landscapes cover 70% of the Congo Forest, a massive opportunity exists to empower the people of the forest commons, in particular, the Pygmy.

Miraculously, Decree No. 14/018 issued by the Congolese government on 2 August 2014 has opened the way for the traditional owners of the forests, the Pygmy, to assume powers hitherto denied them by the colonial and Congo government despite the Berlin Conference of 1885  stating that  “no one has the right to dispossess the indigenous people of the lands they occupy.” 

However, at the current rate of forest clearing by individuals and families for subsistence agriculture, deforestation of the Congo DRC forest is a serious matter.

 

[xliv] Sayer, J., T. Sunderland, J. Ghazoul, J.-L. Pfund, D. Sheil, E. Meijaard, M. Venter, A. K. Boedhihartono, M. Day, C. Garcia, C. Van Oosten, and L. E. Buck. “Ten Principles for a Landscape Approach to Reconciling Agriculture, Conservation, and Other Competing Land Uses.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2013): 8349-356.

[xlv] European Landscape Convention. Council of Europe. 11 April 2017. hhttp://www.coe.int/en/Web./landscape

[xlvi] Lang, Chris. “Introducing Another World Bank Forest Boondoggle: Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes.” REDDMonitor. 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 11 April 2017.. <http://www.redd-monitor.org/2013/11/21/introducing-another-world-bank-fo....

[xlvii] Sayer, Jefferey et al. “Ten Principles for a Landscape Approach to Reconciling Agriculture, Conservation, and Other Competing Land Uses.” PNAS.Org. 21 Dec. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2017. http://www.pnas.org/content/110/21/8349.abstract

Dear participants,

For the second week of discussion starting on Monday (5h July) we will move the conversation back to the plenary space. The country pages will remain open over the week as 'read only’. 

Let us know your thoughts! This week we will talk about:

1. How customary law is adapting to protect women's land rights?

2. What good practices exist in liking statutory and customary institutions?

3. If SADC was to develop a policy on land governance, what would be your recommendations so that it recognises customary law and institutions?

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